Monday, February 25, 2008

Heinous, Odious and Sucky

Dear Children:

The chance that this post will be, like, super boring and totally grotesque is for sure. See, the last few days have been, like way heinous, odious and sucky. I told you about the cold weather and the scandalous slow way my body reacted. In my entire life, I’ve never felt such a stupid, stupid feeling. So, I like ate a bunch of stuff for like, four whole days, didn’t even go to the gym or nothing. I just vegged and sat around.

Now I’m, like, super super fat and waddling everywhere and stuff. Whatever…

So, I finally got back to the gym today and (you know what?) I was up, like four and a half pounds from last week. How is that even possible, man? What does it even mean? I’ll tell you what it means: It means that I ate, like, a bajillion too many calories, right. Culvers makes this totally rad custard soft serve that is to die for. They’ve got vanilla and chocolate and loads of other flavors like peppermint swirl and stuff. You can also get it mixed up with candy bars that are crushed and such.

Don’t you dare say I’m starting over because I am not starting over. I am not starting over one little bit. It’s just a bump in the road of life and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Tomorrow is another day because yesterday’s gone. Yeah. Yesterday’s gone.

Besides, I was like bummed when I got to the gym and the ipod wasn’t putting out. I had to watch daytime TV on four plasma screens … we had ESPN, FOX News, The Price Is Right and CMT. It was nauseous, girl.

On ESPN was like endless Roger Clemens working out with some dork in his like humongous home gym. There was also a guy setting the forty-meter dash record, whatever that is. We saw that lots and lots. There were also tons and tons of Hooters commercials between tons and tons of shaving commercials. I’d like to hurl.

I had to read the crawl on FOX too. Get this … Hillary Clinton and Barack O’Bama are neck and neck. She’s the wife of the president in Washington and he’s this Arab guy from Kenyi, Hawaii. Why they want to neck on national television whizzes right by me. Geez.

The Price Is Right creeped me out. There were people on stage jumping and clapping or being sad because the price was right or the price wasn’t right. They should get a life or maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend or something.

Country Music Television got a laugh out of the old guy on the elliptical trainer next to me. He said Merle Haggard was finally aging into his name. Funny, I think. Anyway, he had me guess what the song was about when I could only see the video. In the whole hour I never guessed right once. I remember a girl dancing in prison, it was raining in this dude’s house and a total bottle blonde couldn’t stop crying. She had to stop, though because she was so, like, totally broken up. The old guy said she was crying because the dude in the beard puked his beer.

What’s so hard about getting MTV or VH1 anyway? Maybe they just get basic cable. That is so 20th century, I’m thinking.

Much Love,


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cold Snap Flap

Dear Children:

First the excuse; then we’ll discuss whether its any good.

It’s been powerful cold lately. The plains are sitting in an infuriating Artic Dome that puzzles and woes. It has sluiced away all my energy and left me panting and adrift: a ruthless chill of the sort I have never experienced. Yesterday it was minus 17F. Accounting for the wind, it was minus 40F.

It wasn’t so cold I couldn’t walk a block and a half to the Hamburger Inn (since 1931) home of the Egg Burger (since 1936) to order the Thunder Burger (grilled onions, jalapenos and ‘shrooms) topped with provolone. It was cold enough to muse that the Thunder Burger may be named for The Thunder Sisters famous in these precincts for correcting male companions with a rolling pin. It wasn’t so cold I couldn’t walk slightly farther to Skellys (since 1998) for fish and chips. Both dishes come with crispy seasoned fries and considerable comfort. It wasn’t so cold I couldn’t meet buddies for coffee and deliver stuff to the church for an upcoming rummage sale. It was, however, sufficiently harsh to thwart a three-block trudge to the gym.

That was yesterday. Today it has warmed to a balmy plus13F and still the only thing that gets me out of the house is food.

Do you see what I’m faced with over here? The question isn’t rhetorical; you can tell by the punctuation. Can you guess?

Me neither.

Taken in the context of history, we may not be experiencing anything unusual. Winter is known for its cold. I’m known for squirrelly tangents and poorly lit emotional hallways. The two should slot-A-tab-B nicely. This feels ominous, though.

Nevertheless, I’m open to the possibilities of tomorrow and a new day just behind the curtain of night.

Much Love,


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

To Toledo And Back In One Day

Dear Children:

People often come up to me and say, “Poppy, when is the best time to weigh myself?” My answer is always the same: “What do you want the scale to tell you?”

Personally, I can’t pass a scale. There’s my new gee-whiz body composition monitor occupying a place of honor in the upstairs bath, the work-a-day digital guy in the downstairs can and the mighty Toledo at the gym. Those are the ones I use most often.

Scales often take a little time to warm up. As such, I recommend stepping on and off a few times. Reckon an average or pick the best result. It can’t hurt.

I weigh myself as often as mental health permits but I have only one official weight for the day. That reading is at the gym after a workout that included heavy perspiration and heavy respiration. It is also after a shower and before deodorant. It’s a harmless conceit because it’s taken the same time every day. Weigh yourself in a disciplined way.

People also come up to me and ask, “Poppy, my scale has been mocking me. Should I replace it?” By all means: If your scale is not telling you what you want to hear, you are duty-bound to replace it.

One of the great fallacies in weight loss is that scales deal in brutal honesty. They most certainly do not. Knowing pounds avoirdupois is of limited utility. Listen to what your scale is saying.

If you hear: One at a time, please; Yep, those are your mother’s thighs; Someone has been hitting the cashews again; That’s apple FRITTER not APPLE fritter or Nobody loves a Fat Ass you own a malevolent scale. It means you harm. Send it to Perdition.

Scales that traffic in non-judgmental, supportive and uplifting truth are the kind you want. They say things like: I know life has been stressful lately; We’ll pass on that large strawberry pineapple milkshake next time; Somebody is mighty proud and Let’s think about alternatives. These scales, strangely enough, are not the spendy ones. They look like all the others and sport the same integers. One does need to scope them out, though. Hold one up to your ear and listen for signs of transcendence or despair. Pick the one that helps. Leave the hurtful ones for the skinny people.

I finished listening to Johnny Cash: American Recordings. It was worth the effort. Today I’m looking forward to Andrea Bocelli: Sacred Arias. There’s this guy at the gym that asked about my iPod and was interested in how it worked. It turns out we share an affection for Rosemary Clooney. It was my pleasure to set his feet upon a right path of MP3.

Much Love,


Monday, February 18, 2008

Fat Chance

Dear Children:

One of the fun things about being a kid is the inverse proportion of fairness we feel as toddlers than we do as tweens. The younger the child the better developed her sense of fairness. The older she becomes, the less likely she is to expect fairness. You’ll soon notice that older adults have no expectation of fairness.

As we mature (rightly or wrongly) we depend more on an assessment of the factual, quantifiable and demonstrable. Consider how disputes are resolved. We go see the judge. The judge has an obligation to follow laws that have some element of fairness. Still, the law may not be fair to one of the parties in favor of a greater and more socially acceptable fairness to the other party. Even if the judge follows the law diligently, the law may not be precisely on point to the particular case. In that event, the judge must use judgment. The whole idea is to produce an outcome. That outcome, called a verdict, is expected to settle the instant dispute and all others like it. It’s much more complicated than I’ve outlined but you get the idea.

Laws are for the purpose of controlling behavior and trials are supposed to refine law by producing a clear winner and a clear loser. In the end, someone is to blame. We like that. Even if we don’t like the outcome, knowing whom to blame is somehow comforting.

The rest of life is not so simple. There are some aspects of life that lend themselves neither to fairness nor to adjudication. Disease is one example. Some people are clearly more talented or better looking than most. Some people will not obey the rules. There are many examples.

Nowhere is there such unfairness as in our genetic makeup. Most of what we are physically, mentally and spiritually come from our parents. Our outlook, our resemblances and our capabilities come directly from the families into which we were born. In no case can we say we deserved to be born a particular way. This is stunningly true when it comes to the question of obesity.

A recent British study has concluded that genetic, birth order and family values factors determine 77% of our predisposition to obesity. Clearly, if I’m fat I can lay the blame squarely at the feet of my parents and family of origin. Lots of the journalists who reported the story agreed. Seventy-seven percent is quite overwhelming and, in a close call, lots of judges would say that it swamps other factors completely.

Don’t be taken in. You see, we have not yet accounted for the remaining 13%. Consider: What if I could guarantee 13% fewer Dodge Ball hits? Do you know that the difference in the first place finisher and the last place finisher in individual sporting events is far less than 13%? A 13% advantage can be overwhelming too. A six-stroke advantage at the end of a 72 hole golf tournament can be less than that.

Play fair. Fight fair. Be fair. While you’re at it, take great care in assigning blame. I’ve learned that obesity is 77% hereditary but we need to think of it like allergies and double-jointedness: as an unevenly distributed biological predisposition. It’s just more of a struggle for some than it is for others.

I’ve been listening to The Commitments recently on the iPod. It’s Soul music sung by a group ostensibly from Barrytown a slum in north Dublin, Ireland in the 1980’s. There are just one or two albums because the group was formed for the purpose of making a movie. That and The Blues Brothers movie soundtrack present an interesting introduction to Soul.

Much Love,


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Children:

Another day of rest comes just in time. It’s always been a matter of mild interest to me that the version of the Ten Commandments that appears in the 20th chapter of Exodus spends a lot of words on just two of those commandments. The first is the proscription of idols and the second is about the Sabbath Day. In says in part, “Six days shalt ye labour and do all thy work: …”. Six days is about right. Five is too few to really say you worked. And, not to put too fine a point on it, two rest days seems excessive.

This is also the day I report my weight (This is being written on Saturday so as not to do violence to The Sabbath). On Saturday I weighed 190lbs. That’s a loss of 5.5lbs. Last Sunday, you’ll recall, I said this sort of weight loss isn’t sustainable. I still believe that to be true but I’ll take whatever I can get. In this case, I’ve lost 10lbs. in two weeks. Still, I’ve been here before many times. Around 180lbs. there is a wall. I’ll need to lose another ten to face that test.

This is also stats day. Tell me what you make of this, please. You will recall the treadmill is set to run for one hour at about four miles per hour. The machine is responsible to adjust the incline to achieve a target heart rate of 120 beats per minute. That is 77% percent of the maximum for a man my age. The hour is then expanded by a three-minute warm-up and a five-minute cool-down. Sometimes the machine reaches level (0.0 incline) when my heart rate is elevated. The machine asks me to slow down the belt until the heart goes down to 120 bpm. The machine keeps track of the time, the distance covered and calories consumed. Got it? Here’s what happened over the previous six days while on the treadmill for sixty-eight minutes each day:

Monday 3.90 miles; 486.3 calories; 124.69 ca/mile or 7.15 ca/min.
Tuesday 4.45 miles; 533.5 calories; 119.89 ca/mile or 7.85 ca/min.
Wednesday 3.60 miles; 313.0 calories; 86.94 ca/mile or 4.60 ca/min.
Thursday 4.25 miles; 530.8 calories; 124.89 ca/mile or 7.81 ca/min.
Friday 4.25 miles; 436.5 calories; 100.35 ca/mile or 6.42 ca/min.
Saturday 4.46 miles; 420.2 calories; 94.22 ca/mile or 6.18 ca/min.

How do we account for the differences among the days? The treadmill settings did not change. Are we different physically on different days? Do the factors that control mood also control our physicality? How much sleep did you get the night before? Are you aggravated, elated or sad? What’s the weather like? Is there an iPod factor? Did you have any caffeine or protein or carbohydrates for breakfast? What were the proportions?

There are too many variables to parse. The best we can do is take note of the constituent details of our lives and strive to harness the positive ones and constrain the negative ones. That’s big talk. We’ll see.

On the iPod today were selections from a four-CD set of Johnny Cash called American Recordings. Mostly, the theme is manhood. Girls may listen too.

Much Love,


Friday, February 15, 2008

Average What You Say, Mean What You Normal

Dear Children:

There are some powerful arithmetic terms that we use quite casually and to our peril.

Average means the result obtained by adding several quantities together and then dividing this total by the number of quantities. When you get to sixth grade, all will be revealed. In everyday parlance, to be average is to look and act like everybody else.

Normal is used to denote conformity to a standard or range of standards that marks us as one of a desired group. Normal people are those found in the fat part of the bell curve of people that live approximate to us. Normal people in Chad do not look or act like normal people in Norway.

Mean is another arithmetic term used to find a point that is equally distant from two extremes or poles. Snooty people are fond of asking whether you are referring to a distributive or statistical mean. Ignore these people

Nobody is average. Most of us are normal inside tightly defined and typically suspicious criteria.

For our purposes let us not use these terms when referring to people. It’s simply not useful. More often it’s dangerous and hurtful. I’ll tell you why.

I love professional basketball. Professional basketball players conform to a highly desirable group. None of them is normal despite this conformity. To be sure, they are all freakishly able athletes who earn their living playing basketball but, beyond that, there are no things that can be said about an individual professional basketball player that is true of all the others or even a few of the others. Kobe Bryant, like all NBA players has excellent cardiovascular health. His resting heart rate is 35 beats per minute, well to the left on any NBA beats per minute bell curve. Shaquille O’Neal is both really, really tall and really, really heavy. Shaquille O’Neal bears no resemblance whatever to Yao Ming. These three are used for illustrative purposes because no NBA General Manager says to his Director of Player Personnel, “Get me an average player, please”.

Just so, you should be suspicious of attempts to categorize yourself. The one thing you have in common is one grandfather. That is a good thing for me but it doesn’t offer much currency generally. No bank in the world will lend money on such thin collateral. It sure couldn’t get you elected President of the republic.

You are all smart in different ways. You are all good looking in different ways. Each of you will make a way in the world that is different.

More to the point please do not make life decisions based on “average” or “normal” criteria. Our job is to discover the thing for which God has designed us. There is a delightful turn of phrase in the 10th chapter of Job where the bewildered servant nevertheless acknowledges: “Thou didst clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. Thou hast granted me life and steadfast love; and thy care has preserved my spirit.”

I hope that applies to fitness as well. Here the averages and the norms and popular wisdom serve only as a hint to what comes next. Each of us was uniquely knit. The extent to which we accept that fact proceeds to informs what’s best for us individually.

On the iPod today was the musical comedy Chicago and the soundtrack from O Brother Where Art Thou. Both have astonishing music and catchy lyrics. The stories they tell are quite different. The former is cynical and coarse and advises we "Go to hell in a fast car" while the latter is all about the "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and the hope of heaven.

Much Love,


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What's In Your Pocket; Change?

Dear Kids:

Last night I ate everything. I do not exaggerate. After 10:00 pm, I consumed two pork chops, about a half-pound of previously frozen corn with blue cheese dressing, four double-handfuls of wavy potato chips and one toasted Breadsmith Russian Rye Dinner Roll with butter.

That after-ten thing is significant. That’s when real bonus eating takes place. What’s up with that?

There are a couple things that seem true. When I’m getting enough sleep, it doesn’t happen. And, when my life is otherwise regular and predictable, it doesn’t happen.

Simple, you say. Why not cultivate regular habits and get enough sleep? These truths didn’t occur to me a moment ago. I’ve known about them since the Second Nixon Administration. The former appears to be contrary to my character and the latter appears to be contrary to my temperament.

The question is: How grievously may I hate the symptoms when the cause is so dear? If we are wedded to our partiality, we needn’t quibble over the practical upshot.

Am I missing something? I'm saying we are obliged to accept those things that necessarily follow from what is entrenched. Could we change it anyway? If we could make a change, is it worth the struggle?

It’s something to think about.

While you’re at it, think about what that has to do with Aretha Franklin. I think about her a lot. She's got it all including a beautiful and expressive voice, enviable phrasing and passionate Gospel sensibilities. I’ve loved every minute listening to her recordings. I even saw her up-close once galumphing down Halsted Street. Her love songs were on the ipod today.

Just don’t take her love song lyrics too seriously. The lyrics come in two categories:

I love you and here’s why, plus

There’s nothing wrong with me but if you change just one little thing all will be well.

The first is okay.

The second category is trouble. As described above, as individuals we don’t change easily. Relationships are exponentially more difficult. It's not just an issue of one party’s culpability, it’s that the other party is blameless.

Don’t believe it. In every relationship, there are at least two of you. In fact, two is the irreducible number that people come in. Pair is normative. So, not only is it unlikely someone else will change but, when a relationship goes south, there’s plenty of blame to share. First look to the contribution you make to any enterprise. After that, it’s okay to scrutinize the other.

Much Love,


Monday, February 11, 2008

Glossary And Shinery

Dear Ryan:

You are last because you are the youngest. Of course, that would be a pain for a lesser personage than you. You are the strong, silent type -- the one in charge -- the potentate who has merely to lift a pinky to command attention and respect. I always picture you as the calm, steady, unmoved gibraltarian in the hubbub. It is a quality that will serve you well in your life as the boss.

So, just for you, is some useful information to understand what’s going on in the gym.


You’d think people who pump all that iron could manage the weight of a whole term in their mouths. ‘Tain’t so. These are the first muscles one trains as part of a strengthening program. LATISSIMUS DORSI is the large, fan-shaped back muscle that extends from your middle back, along the spine to the hip and up to the armpit, BICEPS are the muscles on the front of the arm between the elbow and shoulder (you figure out what Tris are), PECTORAL muscles are the thick, fan-shaped muscle group situated at the upper and forepart of the chest, ABDOMINALS are the tummy muscles that so fascinate Hip Hop artists and their groupies, GLUTEUS muscles are the largest (it figures) muscles in your body...your butt muscles, DELTOIDS are shoulder muscles that come in three parts or “heads”; front, medial (side) and rear, QUADRICEPS are the four muscles on the front of the thigh between the knee and the hip joint, Trapezius muscles run from neck to shoulders and down back along the spine and (my personal favorite) the HAMSTRING, is the muscle on the back of the legs from glutes to knees.

I believe you are old enough to know what guns and wheels are.

Hardbodies are those who have trained for an extended period with some success. These folks are also ripped, buff, cut, striated, shredded, jacked and muscleheaded.

Backfat refers to the fat on your upper back in your lat area.

An FSQ is an abbreviation for front squat. Don’t ask.

Burn is the uncomfortable sensation, produced by the buildup of lactic acid and other metabolites, felt in the muscle being worked. Some actress popularized the phrase “feel the burn”. Don’t bother.

Calorie is short for kilocalorie or the amount of heat required to raise 1 kg of water 1ยบ Centigrade. It is a unit of energy.

Clean and Jerk: A lift calling for the weight to be raised from floor to overhead in two movements.

Clean and Snatch: A lift where the weight is raised from floor to overhead at arms' length in one motion.

Test question: What is a Clean?

A Muscle Spasm is a sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle or muscle group that hurts like the very devil.

Congestive Heart Failure is the inability of the heart muscle to pump the blood at a life-sustaining rate -- just north of dead.

On the iPod today was a musical called Little Shop of Horrors. The music is terrific. The story is about appeasement of an oppressor and how difficult it is to reverse oppression once we empower it.

Much Love,


Sunday, February 10, 2008


Dear Cynthia:

This is a day of rest. As such, I’m going to “give it a rest” today. Things have gotten a little sententious of late anyway. Plus, here you are the Human Spark Plug -- the kid with all the energy and dazzle. Sorry.

So lets get historical to see what the raw numbers are and determine if they have anything to do with anything.

The pros tell us that fitness, including weight loss, is a function of both diet and exercise working in tandem. Diet comes in two forms, less food and less fattening food. Similarly, there are two basic kinds of exercise, cardiovascular and strength training. We ought to be able to tell if, applied assiduously, we can see them work.

Two things are for sure: 1.) If I’m slacking off exercise, I’m eating like a pig and 2.) Exercise both suppresses appetite and speeds up metabolism.

Strength training serves to reshape the body. In my case, I had pretty good legs but poor upper-body strength. For all my sins and miss-steps of the past year, both upper-body contour and strength have improved. Slacking off for short periods doesn’t seem to have much effect on strength.

Cardiovascular exercise, as its name describes, is all about heart, lungs and circulation.

There’s a big caveat in all this: Very few could exercise himself or herself slim. The most vigorous exercise only burns 700 or so kilocalories per hour. More sensibly, it takes about an hour on the treadmill for every Big Mac. One pound of fat is the equivalent of 4,200 kilocalories. One half pound lost will require +/- four hours at that pace.

That said, here’s what happened over the last year:

2/12/07 to 3/9/07 193.0lbs to 186.0lbs
4/16/07 to 4/21/07 191.5lbs to 186.5lbs
8/15/07 to 11/21/07 196.0lbs to179.5lbs
12/3/07 to 12/18/07 182.0lbs to 180.0lbs
12/31/07 to 1/11/08 194.5lbs to 188.5lbs
1/30/08/ 200lbs
2/3/08 Blog begins
2/4/08 to 2/10/08 200lbs to 195.5lbs

I think this proves that there is a direct link between exercise and weight loss/gain even though the calories burned through exercise are not equivalent. We can surmise that a calorie consumed in the absence of exercise is more likely to find it’s way to the waist.

Still, how about the 4.5lbs lost last week? While I’m puffed up with pride, it’s not necessarily a sustainable pace. It may not be healthy to maintain such a pace. And, I think the principle of LIFO (last in first out) applies. The fat we piled on most recently is the fat that is consumed soonest. The most stubborn fat has been around the longest and is in the FUPA (you figure in out): belly fat. It is both genetic and intractable. Obviously, it’s a problem better saved for later.

This morning opened with a diner breakfast of two eggs any style, lightly buttered wheat toast, crisp golden hash browns and a steaming cup of our special blend coffee with sweet cream – so wrong on so many levels. Lunch will consist of phlogiston and political promises. Just to be sure, dinner will be a covered dish: Rice Cake Surprise.

Tomorrow look for words I learned at the gym.

Much Love,


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Waist Not, Want Not

Dear Reid:

I just saw the movie of you riding your bike without the training wheels. We’re talking way cool. That’s just the way you are: always the source of action and scoot. When you grow up, you will either be the world’s tallest Leprechaun or the world’s shortest Fomorian. Either way, you are certain to have an impact.

I need your advice on something. Do you think there’s such a thing as magic pants?

Here’s some background:

When I weigh 195 pounds or so, like now, my pants need a thirty-eight-inch waist. When I weigh 180 pounds, the waist needs to be thirty-seven inches. At the Target, you can’t buy thirty-seven-inch pants. That’s the way it is. The choices are 38 or 36. Custom sizes are available at any haberdashers but the price isn’t justifiable for someone certain of losing weight. Get it?

The last time I weighed 180 pounds just before Thanksgiving, I puzzled over this problem. The solution, of course, was to replace the whole wardrobe of 38-inchers with 36-inchers. After all, it would only be a matter of days – a week at the most – ‘til the pants fit perfectly. Do you see what’s happening? I was about to imbue these Target trousers with magical powers. I didn’t express it this way, of course. The effect was the same. These pants had totemic prowess sufficient to ward off belly fat.

It didn’t work, as you know. The pants and their false promise were thwarted. It was a matter of deep disappointment. It put me in a funk. Don’t get any wild ideas. I’m much too sophisticated to have imagined that there is such a thing as magic. Yet, look what happened. The net effect was to engender a downward spiral.

We do this sort of thing all the time. I hinted at this to Cori last Monday. We should be suspicious of all substitutes for achievement and appeals to dark powers. What I should have done is press on with a program that was working and manage a setback within the parameters of my own powers (whatever they are).

Today I listened to Rosemary Clooney; Songs From The Girl Singer. It was the best.

Tomorrow is a day of rest.

Much Love,


Friday, February 8, 2008

Resolution Failure Revealed

Dear Wesley:

Maybe I told Benjamin a wrong thing. I’m beginning to form an attachment to the ear staples. My appetite has lessoned considerably, the headache is gone and I exaggerated about the smoking thing. Stay tuned. An open mind has been achieved.

I mention this to you particularly because of all my grandchildren, your mind is the most uncluttered; uncluttered by prejudice and secret agendas. In fact, I have never met anyone with such a pure inner life. I wish I could peer inside just to see how it is done. Alas, no one can be inside the mind of another. As such this disquisition may be completely wrong. Forget that. Humor me. Try it on for a while to see if there is any truth to what is suggested.

We don’t fully appreciate the “why” of our actions. To some that might be recognition of motive; to others it might mean a declaration of intent; a different group might express it as a response to anxiety. Lets just say that each of us does things for good and sufficient reasons yet don’t particularly need to express or even know the reasons.

That, I think, is the explanation for New Year’s Resolution failure. We’re not in touch with what possessed us to make that resolution or have an inkling of the practical implication of its fulfillment. If we did know, we probably wouldn’t make much of it at all. We would just do it and not wait for the New Year.

When you hear something like, “I plan to start my diet on Monday”, that poor soul is in for a doomed diet.

So now you know why you’re being burdened with this ponderous inquiry. I want to know why. Why did I get fat in the first place? Assuming there was good reason for it, why make a change? Does my life hold such import that prolonging it satisfies some greater good? Who benefits one way or the other? Why am I blathering on so insistently? Is any of this worth the aggravation?

You tell me.

On the iPod today was Jerry Lee Lewis The Sun Recordings -- all sorts of wonderful country tunes and even some Tin Pan Alley. What a joy.

Tomorrow, look for a post on the value of 36-inch pants.

Much Love,


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Blubber Technology

Dear Benjamin:

You are my sojourner. By the time you are 18 months old, you shall have already lived in three states. That’s mighty impressive. I can’t wait for acts two and three.

Did I tell you I got one of those cool body composition monitors for Christmas? A body composition monitor is a snooty name for a scale that weighs one’s body as well as passing a low-level electrical signal up through the body that measures the percentage of body fat, the percentage of body water, total weight of bones and calculates the calories required to maintain one’s present weight.

Who needs that? Nobody. If one can see additional holes on one’s belt to the right of the wear-mark one is making progress in fat reduction. Right? Still, I asked Santa for the monitor because I want to develop my inner geek and cultivate a reputation as someone to be reckoned techno-literate. After all, these monitors need to be programmed.

The monitor now knows that I am 5’7.5” tall and I’m a 63-years-old male that is not an athlete but gets a moderate amount of exercise.

Yesterday morning four hours after my breakfast of twigs and berries… It said I weigh 197.6lbs, my percentage of body fat is 29.2, my body water is 49.6%, my bones weigh 7lbs. and it takes 3,305 kilocalories to run a physique like that.

Okay. How much does my fat weigh? My fat weighs 57.5992lbs. (197.6 X .292 = 57.5992). Fitness experts figure that I’m at the top of the “over fat” category. Eight more tenths of a percentage point and I’m officially by-God obese.* To get into the healthy category, my body fat percentage should be between 15 and 25. Twenty percent would be best. My fat needs to weigh a lot less.

But wait. As I proceed with strength training, I’ll add additional lean weight called “muscle mass” so I can’t tell you how much my fat should weigh when I reach the 20% goal.

The wild card in all this is the Total Body Water Percentage. You’ll recall that my number is 49.6%. This number fluctuates wildly during the day. Nonetheless, this number is at the bottom of the normal scale. Men should have a number between 50 and 65 according to my monitor’s manual. I don’t know anything about what my hydration should be and what my low number means. I do know that as this number rises, the fat percentage should lower. Huh?

One more thing …

On Super Tuesday I marched into an acupuncture storefront at 11:22 am and told Rhonda to put staples in my ears. I had a coupon for $10 off. The coupon was included with their newspaper ad that promised that the staples would not only cause me to eat less but would cure my smoking habit, relieve stress and eliminate headaches.

The staples were installed seconds later. After that, my appetite was ravenous, I had a four-hour headache, I was stressed out, I’m $60 poorer and I thought about taking up cigarettes again after 26 years.

Maybe it’ll work out but, for now, there is nothing but shame.

Much Love,


* According to the manual, “obese” in German is “fettleibig”.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Are Senior Citizens Selfish?

Dear Halle:

Someone like you who is a born puzzle solver, will get a kick out of this one: A group of researchers in the Netherlands, after considerable study and no end of tax payer’s guilders, came to the obvious conclusion that fat people are less of a burden on the Dutch medical system than fit people.

It seems that fat people die sooner than fit people. And, because older and fitter people consume the largest fraction of their medical services in the last few years of their lives, fine fettle runs up the cost of universal health care in the Low Countries.

Here’s the puzzle: Do we encourage obesity to save money on health care or pony up the dough to protect both the fit and the fat? What about cigarette smokers? They die sooner than non-smokers. Why not encourage smoking as a cost-cutting measure? What about buying everyone a motorcycle and ban helmet use? What do you say? Lets get rid of seat belts.

I know which you would choose. You would rather spend money to encourage the fat to get old and fit. Me too. Still, it’s an interesting question in an abstract, public policy sort of way.

It’s the same question each of us faces every day. What’s better? There must be some direct correlation of time we spend on good things for our bodies as against time we spend on rather more pleasurable activities like dessert? Could the same be true of our minds? Is there a direct correlation of time spent at our studies and time in front of the TV?

At bottom, each of us gets a term of years. We can never know how many years we get until it’s too late. That’s part of the fun.

So, how would you rather spend your life? Before you answer, though, ask yourself if what you choose has public policy implications.

I lost half a pound today. The iPod blessed me with three Mark Twain short stories. Tomorrow look for a post about a cute new scale and my recent piercing.



Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fat Tuesday

Dear Tony,

Every time I think of you, that smile lights up the dimmest shelf in my heart. Doubtless that heart-breaking countenance of yours will take you places for which we mere upright-walkers are obliged to struggle.

Just so you know; while the obverse of that coin may not be as obvious to you, it is painfully obvious for the rest of us. Please. I don’t want you to change; far from it. But know that while you are skipping along a flower-strewn path lined with mortals anxious to do your bidding, your humble relatives may only sigh and marvel how God’s love is so fervently and excessively applied.

Which leads me to the one and lonely thing I have learned about a pilgrimage to fitness: We may get there but we may not remain. Perseverance is the only virtue to be admired and the only pearl to be prized. See? If we actually get to the point where we can claim to be fit, the only thing to do is persevere in the fitness. And, if that perseverance in fitness leads to longer life, we get to persevere in that fitness ever longer.

My present workout routine is appallingly simple. As anyone will tell you, my idea of perseverance was always an apology for a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I haven’t wanted things to be simple. For me, order was achieved by defeating complexity.

Wrong. Lately, I’ve come to believe that a circumstance of any kind is inherently orderly. Our job is to discover how that circumstance came to be. Circumstances cry out to be accepted and reconciled within a larger context and set of circumstances.

That’s why perseverance is so important generally and important specifically to fitness. Fitness may be the ultimate metaphor for reconciliation. We are obliged to be the best version of what we are – simple, complete and reconciled to the order that is around us; keeping us.

Anyhow, I’m doing an hour of cardiovascular exercise; usually the treadmill set at 3mph and the incline tuned to maintain a heart rate of 120bpm. That’s just shy of 80% of the maximum for my age.

Then there’s a series of Nautilus machines as follows: leg press 165lbs.; multi-triceps 60lbs.; biceps 70lbs.; rowing back 140lbs.; bench press 60lbs.; incline press 70lbs. and pullover 100lbs. The forgoing is done two times with 20 repetitions each. Then I do 30 repetitions times two of both the lower back and the abdominal machines at 110lbs.

That routine gets me about halfway through the Gospel discography of Elvis Presley.

Much Love,


Monday, February 4, 2008

Twenty-Four Hour Bug

Dear Cori:

Today is the first day of my public quest for fitness. As you can see from yesterday's post, I have had a few periods of sensible eating and vigorous exercise that have resulted in weight loss and a start toward cardiovascular health. Those periods were always followed by phases of weight gain and deteriorating health. It is my hope that if, this time, I share my goals with you, the other grandchildren and the rest of the world, I might summon the strength to make a life-time lifestyle change.

Of course, I want to be slimmer and better looking. More importantly I want to watch you grow up some more. I figure that through a combination of God's grace and my own effort I can see you started on a family and children of your own. Right now, I'm shooting for 30 or so more years -- time for selfish enjoyment of all things Corneille.

The past 24 hours tell a story. Last night I went to a super bowl XLII party. There could not be a more perfect challenge at the buffet. Every nasty food group was represented. You know those smallish over-sweet meatballs? There was gloppy spinach dip in a bread bowl. There were buttery crackers and phony cheese galore. The chicken wing food group was there along with the baked beans with fatback group. And, just for the sake of confusion, there were healthful spears of asparagus wrapped in a ham-like material.

To be fair to our host, there were also hunks of broccoli and cauliflower as well as offerings of celery and radish. Of course, next to these paragons of rectitude was a cauldron of ranch dressing.

And then there was the beer -- German lager; unfiltered wheat; dark stout; premium domestics; imported Mexican and Chinese -- just to name a few; calling and mocking me from their chilly caves and niches.

What to do?

I had a few naked vegetables, one of the asparagus thingies and one generous scoop of those glorious meatballs. I cannot describe how unsatisfying it was. Injury was added upon being persuaded by some smugness of mind not to have any beer. I stared way too long at the frosty mugs. Pornography comes in all forms.

At home there was a small portion of left-over red cabbage and white brat along with a helping of microwaved frozen corn seasoned with lo-cal french dressing. I went to bed in a snit.

This morning saw a new day and a bowl of grape nuts with some fruit out of a formerly frozen bag. There was a cup of coffee laced with a dollop of sugar substitute.

Thus fortified, the gym awaited. More about that tomorrow. The workout routine was satisfied and made palatable by an ipod load of Luciano Pavarotti "World's Best Loved Arias".

I just now weighed myself. I lost weight. The cost was very high.

With Much Love,


Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Journey Begins Tomorrow

A year ago I weighed 207 lbs. Today I weigh 207 lbs. Along the way, I have lost 25lbs, 20 lbs and 18 lbs. Thats 58 lbs. I'm 63 years old and stand 5' 7" tall.

I have exercised vigorously for weeks at a time, eaten small meals for weeks at a time, eaten vegetarian for weeks at a time and lost weight.

I have eaten like a pig for weeks at a time and slacked off exercise for weeks at a time. For those periods, I have gained weight.

The thing is: I don't know why I'm enthusiastic about fitness, health and weight loss one week and not another. There must be some mechanism at work.

Anyway, thats the purpose of this blog; to keep up a diary of how I feels each day, assess what it was in my day that suggests a sense of determination, ease or a willingness to slack off.

So, starting tomorrow look for a post late in the day about how I did the previous 24 hours.

These posts are a research tool for me. Still, if they help someone else, so much the better. And, if anyone has a suggestion for me, I want to hear it. Tangentially, there will be a written record for those of you who care to follow my progress